The rule on when the police may act on an anonymous tip is tested through layers of legal jargon. Yet it can still be explained quite simply. If a tip is both anonymous and uncorroborated, it does not justify police action. This week, however, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion that many may think eviscerates this rule. Law enforcement officers, it turns out, do not need much corroboration at all.
An anonymous caller claimed that a certain car drove erratically on a certain highway. But when the car was found near where the caller reported it, the police did not observe any violation of traffic rules. No matter. That the car the caller described was seen close to where the caller said it would be was enough to corroborate everything else the tipster said, and allowed the State Patrol to pull the vehicle over.
This is likely to become a key case for appellate attorneys. One of the most frequent grounds for criminal appeals is the sufficiency of evidence. Anonymous tips are a natural target in those cases. Lack of corroboration will now be that much harder to argue. Careful consideration of all the facts is, as always, paramount.